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JUNE DIRT CLUB – CLOS CIBONNE

Posted by Chris LaBranche on

Ah, Provence. This picturesque Mediterranean region is one of the best known in all of France. Yet it’s more for its beaches and effusive sunshine than its winegrowing culture that Provence is on most people’s radar. Lately, though, as the worldwide thirst for rosé has exploded, this historic capital of French pink wine production is pumping out as much as it can to satisfy demand. Though much of this happens on an industrial scale, there are a handful of small estates across Provence that are producing terroir-driven wines from native varietals that rival their more popular neighbors in the Rhône and elsewhere in terms of complexity and deliciousness. Chief among the best is Clos Cibonne. Nestled between Marseille and Cannes on the coast, the winemaking tradition at Clos Cibonne dates back to 1697. The real legacy of the estate was made more recently after its hard-fought win for governmental recognition for its grape (Tibouren), its appellation (Côtes de Provence), and the preeminence of its vineyard sites.

CLOS CIBONNE COTES DE PROVENCE TIBOUREN ROSE 'VIGNETTES'

Vintage: 2016

Grape: Tibouren

Place: Provence, France

Soil: Schist

Price: $31.99

It’s refreshing to see the world clamor over rosé. What was once a derided, unpopular choice is now one of the wine world’s hottest. Yet, it’s a shame to think of rosé as just a refreshing beverage that is nothing more than light, fresh, and drinkable. There are serious versions too, like this one, that offer just as much complexity and depth France’s best reds and whites. And, like a great white, these rosés are surely at their best when paired with food and served cool rather than ice cold.

HOW TO

Clos Cibonne’s Vignettes is the pride of the estate in that it is 100% Tibouren sourced from their oldest vines (60 years plus) that are just a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. Seaside winds cool the vines in this otherwise warm region, preserving their all-important acidity. This combination yields intensely flavored grapes with ample freshness that contribute to a rosé of unparalleled concentration and finesse. The audacious trademark of the estate that few if any other rosé producers practice is the aging of their rosés in ancient oak foudres for a full year before release. And, not unlike some of our favorite producers in the Jura, they allow a veil of yeast to form over the wine in barrel, which contributes to a gentle oxidation that is found in few other rosés (or whites for that matter). The result is one of France’s most unique and engaging shades of pink, with notes of salted watermelon, chalky minerals, and fresh herbs. Try this one with grilled salmon, salty cheeses, and fresh veggies.

CLOS CIBONNE COTES DE PROVENCE TIBOUREN ROUGE

Vintage: 2016

Grape: Tibouren (90%), Syrah (10%)

Place: Provence, France

Soil: Schist

Price: $29.99

Though it’s notoriously difficult for winegrowers to convince the French government’s INAO (Institut National de l’origine et de la qualité)–which regulates what one can and cannot put on their wine label–to change existing regulations, Clos Cibonne lobbied for years for their cherished Tibouren vineyards. Only the best vineyard sites throughout France (in theory of course) can print their village’s name on the label. And, in particularly crucial regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux, the INAO regulates the hierarchy between humble and prestigious crus, and everything in between. The difference between a Grand Cru and Appellation Régionale Burgundy can be hundreds of dollars per bottle, so these things are taken seriously. Believing firmly in the nobility of their Provençal terroir, Clos Tibouren fought the good fight for years to get the right to label their Tibouren rosé  Cru Classé within the broader Côtes de Provence appellation. They won. Their wines are reliably a class above the pack in the region.

HOW TO

Though popular in the past, Tibouren–the grape that drives this estate–is a rarity today in Provence. Recent studies have shown that it is virtually identical genetically to Rossese di Dolceacqua, a common variety across the Italian border in Liguria, not far from Provence. Not unlike the reds of Liguria, Clos Cibonne’s Tibouren rouge is light and fresh, with ample acidity that is refreshing to find in such a warm climate. With ample yet not dominant fruit, its Mediterranean roots shine through with herbal, earthy notes of black pepper and fresh thyme. A perfect warm-weather red that is at its best with a slight chill (give it 20-30 minutes in the fridge if you’re storing around room temperature). I’ll be pairing it up with cheeseburgers and broader BBQ fare all summer long. And don’t count this one out with the local favorite–seafood.


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